Whether adopted or not, every child has a birth mother. Most children celebrate their birth mother on Mother’s Day, which in the U.S. is the second Sunday in May, and we are familiar with this tradition. Less familiar to many is how a very special group of women is recognized on the day prior, a day which is now known as Birth Mother’s Day.

History of Birth Mother’s Day

Unlike Mother’s Day, Birth Mother’s Day is not a holiday that is marked on the average calendar. You probably won’t be able to find many cards for it, and it is doubtful that you’ll overhear people discussing how they plan to spend the day. But as those whose lives are touched in some way by adoption learn of it, and include observance of it in their lives, more people will become aware of the day created to honor Birth Mothers.

Created and founded in 1990 by women who had formed adoption plans for their children, the first gathering for Birth Mother’s Day was celebrated in Seattle, Washington on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, which that year was on May 12th. The 30th anniversary of Birth Mother’s Day is May 9, 2020.

The intent of the day, as created by women who knew what it was to place a baby for adoption, was to honor and support each other as the world around them prepared to celebrate the women who were parenting their children. While bittersweet in origin, just as the nature of adoption has changed over the years, the observance of Birth Mother’s Day is also changing. Families who are parenting a child or children through adoption understand that it is important to acknowledge those who helped to form their family even if they are not present in their day to day lives. To not recognize an adopted child’s Birth Mother makes disingenuous the celebration of the Adoptive Mother. So, while the initial observances of Birth Mother’s Day focused on reflection and commiseration, the day is progressing into one that allows others who are touched by adoption the opportunity to recognize the person who plays the key role in the adoption.

Experiencing Birth Mother’s Day

While it is fairly easy to come up with a list of the ways to honor a mother on traditional Mother’s Day: card, flowers, gift, brunch, spa-date, how can Birth Mother’s Day be celebrated? As with every adoption, how this is approached will vary from family to family. Some families may have an adoption that is so open that it is possible for an adopted child’s Birth Mother to be celebrated in the same way as is the child’s Adopted Mother, but in most circumstances this is not the case. However, with a little thought and creativity it is possible to provide a child with meaningful ways to celebrate their Birth Mother.

video chat

If you are in contact with each other or have an open adoption:

  • Reach out and let her know that you’re thinking about her. This is easier than ever to do with social media, texting, email or on-line photo exchange sites. Your child’s own esteem can only benefit from seeing his mothers’ kindnesses to one another.
  • Some families created through adoption celebrate Birth Mother’s Day by going out to eat together, having a back yard gathering, or by attending a public community event organized for this purpose.
  • Because of the increase in open adoptions, more expectant parents and prospective adoptive families are able to take the opportunity to get to know one another both before and after birth and placement. One of the benefits is learning about preferences that can be later highlighted. For example, if your family always concludes a celebration with a specific traditional dessert, for example “Aunt Debbie’s Prize Winning Apple Pie”, a nice way to honor your child’s Birth Mother on Birth Mother’s Day would be to enjoy strawberry shortcake, which you learned is her favorite dessert.

If your adoption is closed or you currently are not in direct contact with each other:

  • Select something for your garden that blooms at this time of year and plant it in honor of your child’s Birth Mother. Share with your child each spring the feeling of gratitude you feel as its blossoms remind you of her.
father and child plant a tree
  • Some adoption professionals ask expectant parents to share interesting information about their favorite things, personal interests and goals in addition to the medical information that is standard and required. If you are fortunate enough to know of some of your child’s Birth Mother’s “favorites” they could be featured so that your child may enjoy something his Birth Mother would herself enjoy.
  • Create a homemade card with your child. If it is not possible to send now, these may become keepsakes to someday remind your child of time spent working with you to recognize his Birth Mother’s importance. You can get really creative, and if you like, the cards can even be from all of you. Making cards for Birth Mother’s Day can help your child to process their feelings about their adoption as well as encourage them to be more open with their Birth Mother should they have contact some day in the future.

When Observing Birth Mother’s Day

It is important to be mindful that for some Birth Mothers, there are many days, and especially those during the second weekend in May, that are days when emotions can be heavy. For that reason some may need for their observance of Birth Mother’s Day to be a day on which they can cry, share their feelings, and be with those who are supportive. For others, when it is possible, this may a time to spend time with the sons and daughters for whom they created adoption plans, and to see them interact with the members of their Adoptive Families. These are just a couple of examples of ways that observing Birth Mother’s Day can provide a sense of healing or be reaffirming to a Birth Mother, but are probably not representative of how many women who have experienced adoptive placement actually spend the day. It is hoped that in years to come the celebration of Birth Mothers will be the norm, rather than the exception.

For the Adoptive Family, observing Birth Mother’s Day in addition to Mother’s Day may not initially come to mind, but if it does, it provides a time for reflection in addition to celebration: Adoptive Parents may find themselves thinking back on their child’s birth and placement, that it was an emotional time of uncertainty, and that they ultimately are filled with gratitude to have become parents to this child. As open adoption becomes more desired it is hoped that more families formed through adoption will recognize the adoption-positive message and plan some way to recognize their child’s Birth Mother on Birth Mother’s Day.

happy child

Finally, by observing Birth Mother’s Day in addition to traditional Mother’s Day you can provide your child with a foundation upon which esteem about being an adopted child may be built. It is another way for you to demonstrate to your child how you celebrate that they are yours through adoption. When you show your child that their Birth Mother is someone to honor, respect and love, because their Birth Mother is part of what makes them who they are, your child takes all of this in as a positive reflection on them, as well.